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Get medical help right away. If your child shows signs of serious distress – such as difficulty breathing or unconsciousness – call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. Otherwise, call her doctor or the help line of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) at 1-800-222-1222. Don’t wait – marijuana is a serious drug.
Because children are small, they have a much greater risk of severe and potentially life-threatening effects from weed, including racing heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, seizures, delirium, difficulty breathing, and coma. Other symptoms can include loss of coordination, irritability, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and slurred speech.
Serious side effects are especially common with edibles (such as cookies, brownies, and candies) and synthetic marijuana because these are sometimes cut with dangerous chemicals. Edibles also typically contain more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
A child who has ingested marijuana might just need to be observed in the emergency room for a few hours. If his symptoms are severe, he could be admitted to the hospital for observation overnight. Your child's urine probably will be tested to confirm the presence of marijuana and check for any other substances. As marijuana becomes decriminalized, hospitals are seeing more and more children who have accidentally consumed weed. Between 2005 and 2011, the AAPCC received nearly 1,000 calls about children who were accidentally exposed to marijuana. In states where marijuana was legal, calls increased by 30 percent each year.
Healthcare providers treating a child who has eaten something containing marijuana most likely will contact child protective services. But fear of possible legal consequences is no reason to avoid getting your child necessary – and potentially life-saving – medical care.
Whether your weed is legal or not, medicinal or recreational, treat it (and all marijuana products) like any medication: Store it out of children's reach in child-resistant containers or a lockbox. Never keep marijuana edibles with other foods because some edibles are packaged to resemble familiar treats, like gummy bears and brownies, and your child won't be able to tell the difference. If visitors bring edibles or weed into your house, make sure it's always out of children's reach.
In any case, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents avoid using weed around children because this models a behavior that can impair learning, affect memory and attention, and contribute to accidental injuries and deaths. Also, marijuana is one of the most common drugs used by adolescents, and research shows that the younger kids start using it, the more likely they are to struggle with drug addiction as adults.
If you're concerned about your use of weed and want help quitting, talk to your doctor. She can help you find the resources and support you need.